Wiltord return helps Arsenal's push for treble

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sylvain Wiltord and Jérémie Aliadière are back in business as Arsenal gather up their full firepower again for the final push that could land them the treble.

Sylvain Wiltord and Jérémie Aliadière are back in business as Arsenal gather up their full firepower again for the final push that could land them the treble.

Wiltord, who has missed 22 games with an ankle injury since 16 December, may be on his way out of Highbury in the summer, having refused to sign a new contract, but could still have a key part to play. He was on target in his comeback game for the Arsenal reserves against Luton at the Gunners' Hertfordshire training base this week and finished the 90 minutes of the behind-closed-doors match without ill-effect.

Wiltord, who hit four goals in 12 starts before his injury, clipped an opportunist effort over the Luton goalkeeper to make it 3-0 in the 65th minute. Nwankwo Kanu, Michal Papadopulos and Anthony Stokes scored Arsenal's other goals.

Aliadière celebrated his 21st birthday in Tilburg by scoring in the France Under-21 side's 1-1 draw with the Netherlands. He missed most of last season with two operations to repair hernias, and has not been much luckier with injuries this term.

In the run-up to Arsenal's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United on Saturday, the United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy said it is impossible to compare him with Thierry Henry.

The Dutchman's team-mate Louis Saha reignited the debate over which striker is the Premiership's best by saying that Henry is a better all-round player. But Van Nistelrooy, who should play on Saturday despite a minor knee injury, said: "People often try to compare both of us but I think it is difficult as we are a very different type of player. I feel closer to David Trezeguet, who is a more typical No 9. On the pitch Thierry is everywhere and that's what makes him special."

Van Nistelrooy's Netherlands side were due to play France in a friendly last night and he picked out Les Bleus' Arsenal trio as the men who make them favourites to win the European Championship.

"For me, France are not among the favourites, they are the favourites for Euro 2004," he said. "They won all their qualification matches and Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira are the heart of this team. They are the three men that make the difference.

"Vieira is ever-present in the midfield. He is a powerful leader, but also a very good footballer. Pires is a creator. Thierry is the key man, an incredible athlete."

United have been warned off moving for Valencia's Spanish left-winger Vicente Rodriguez as Ryan Giggs's long-term replacement.

The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has put the £12m-rated player on his wish list for the summer after missing out to Chelsea on PSV Eindhoven's Arjen Robben. But the player's agent, Miguel Angel Cermeno, said: "I am not going to sit down and speak to anyone, nor am I going to listen to offers because the player is clear that he wants to stay at Valencia. It is here he has found the ideal professional and personal stability and he doesn't want to change that for anything, no matter how dizzying the offer could be."

Valencia's president, Jaime Orti, said: "Vicente could have joined Arsenal, but he preferred to stay at Valencia. He wants to spend his entire career at Valencia and we want that to happen. There can't be any problems."

Comments